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Oddsfish! by Robert Hugh Benson

Ferguson proved himself a clever fellow

* * * * *

It was a clear day as the packet put out from Dover; and, as I stood on deck, watching the cliffs recede as we went, there came on me again that same mood that had fallen on me as I went up the river so long ago from Wapping. Once more it appeared to me as if I were in somewhat of a dream. Those men I had left behind, awaiting trial and death; Mr. Chiffinch; the King, the Court, even Dolly herself, appeared to have something phantom-like about them. Once more the realities seemed to close about me and envelop me--or rather that great Reality whom we name God; and all else seemed but very little and trifling.



Once more it was high summer, a year afterwards, as I rode in, still with James, thank God! and three other men, over London Bridge.

* * * * *

My life abroad once more must remain undescribed. There is plenty of reason against the telling of it; and nothing at all for it. One thing only may I say, that I came last from Rome, having stayed over for the Feast of the Apostles, and carried with me, though verbally only, some very particular instructions for His Royal Highness the Duke of York from personages whom

he should respect, if he did not. And what those counsels were will appear in the proper place. By those same personages I had been complimented very considerably, and urged to yet greater efforts. Briefly with regard to the two Royal Brothers, I was urged to press on the one, and to restrain the other; for I heard in Rome that it was said that they would listen to me, if I observed discretion.

As to what had passed in England, a very short account will suffice.

First, with regard to the conspirators, a number had been executed, among whom I suppose must be reckoned my Lord Russell--an upright man, I think; yet one who had at least played with very hot fire. Frankly, I do not believe that he aimed ever at the King's life, but that my Lord Howard witnessed that he did, in order to save himself. Of the others that were executed, I think all deserved it; and the principal, I suppose, was Mr. Sidney, that ancient Republican and Commonwealth man, who was undoubtedly guilty. Besides him, my Lord Essex had killed himself in prison--for I never believed the ugly story of the bloody razor having been thrown out of his window--and Sir Thomas Armstrong was executed--and richly he had earned it by a thousand crimes and debaucheries--and old Colonel Rumbald; whose fate, I must allow, caused me a little sorrow (even though he had flung a sharp cleaver at my head), for he was very much more of a man than that puling treacherous hound my Lord Howard, who was taken hiding in his shirt, up his own chimney, and turned traitor to his friends. Holloway too--a merchant of Bristol, and a friend of Mr. Ferguson--was executed, and several in Edinburgh, of the Scottish plotters under Argyle, among whom the principal was Baillie of Jerviswood. The torture of the boot and the thumbscrews was used there, I am sorry to say; for they had plenty of evidence without it. Of the others some evaded altogether, of whom a good number went to Holland, which was their great refuge at this time, and others again saved their lives by turning King's evidence. The Reverend Mr. Ferguson proved himself a clever fellow, as indeed I had thought him, and a courageous one too, for after attending my Lord Shaftesbury upon his deathbed, he returned again to Edinburgh, and there, upon search being made for him, hid himself in the very prison to which they wished to consign him, and so escaped the death he had earned.

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